K-State continues road struggles in loss to West Virginia

(Photo by Parker Robb | Collegian) West Virginia forward Devin Williams attempts to work around junior forward Thomas Gipson during the first half of the Wildcats’ 78-56 beatdown of the Mountaineers January 18 in Bramlage Coliseum.

Winning on the road is tough, especially in a conference as strong as the Big 12. That lesson was once again proven, unfortunately, for K-State men’s basketball over the weekend.

The Wildcats had their way with the West Virginia Mountaineers in Bramlage Coliseum only two weeks ago. It was West Virginia’s worst loss of the season, K-State defeating them by 22 points. On Saturday, the Mountaineers avenged that loss, besting the Wildcats 81-71.

K-State was in dire need of a road win. They have only captured one this season, over the TCU Horned Frogs, who currently sit at the bottom of the Big 12 standings with an 0-8 conference record. The three previous road losses were all to teams that are currently ranked in the top 25. With the exception of the game against Kansas, the Wildcats had plenty of chances to win each.

There has been a steady trend to the Wildcats’ play on the road; they’ve trailed at the half in every away appearance. Sluggish first half play puts them into a hole which they’ve often been able to crawl their way out of, just before losing late.

On Saturday, the Wildcats headed into the halftime break down by eight. They fought back, and senior guard Omari Lawrence drilled a pair of free throws at the 12:17 mark to tie the game up. From there, the Wildcats allowed the Mountaineers to jump back out to a seven-point lead.

With three minutes left in the game, the Wildcats had the ball and a one-point deficit. Once again, they had crawled back to give themselves a shot to capture an elusive road win, but the Wildcats turned the ball over three times in the final two and a half minutes to cement their fate. Head coach Bruce Weber said he has noticed the trend.

“It’s Groundhog Day for us,” Weber said following Saturday’s loss. “We keep repeating the same mistakes on the road. We do not play very well in the first half, but are able to battle in the second half to give ourselves a chance.”

After a quick 4-1 start in conference play, the Wildcats have dropped three of their last four games to fall back into the middle of the Big 12 pack. To stay atop the conference standings, road wins are an absolute necessity.

The Wildcats face a tough stretch of games after a mid-week bye. They will host two consecutive ranked teams in Texas and Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday and Monday. Defending home court is a must for this young Wildcat squad.